Pianists have grabbed a particularly bright spotlight, but trumpeters, saxophonists, bassists, and singers have shined too. And musicians of all ages, from the 29 year old vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant) to 80 year old saxophonist Charles Lloyd (one of my favs) and many in between, have released some great music.
Below are four of the many sources that have published “best of Jazz” lists. Each list is different and yet there is some overlap. Most of the lists have links to audio and video samples some have reviews and artist profiles. Maybe you will find a new or an old favorite among them. Click the titles to go to each list. Enjoy .
The GRAMMY® Award-winning Yellowjackets Return with Raising Our Voice.
Raising Our Voice is a collaboration with Brazilian jazz marvel Luciana Souza, an ideal choice for the first vocalist to join the Yellowjackets.
“The band keeps moving forward,” says saxophonist Bob Mintzerwho joined the group in 1990. “It’s one of the few partnership bands in the last four decades. It’s democratic, laissez-faire and accommodating to everyone in the band to contribute. We’re constantly reinventing ourselves as a reflection of what’s happening in the world.”
In a 2013 interview with Anat Cohen published in JazzTimes, one of my heroes , composer and wind instrument virtuosos Paquito D’Rivera talks about what he learned from his father about listening to good music.
“Well, my father is still today a main figure to look up to in my career. He was a classical saxophone player. He never had the ability to improvise. But he loved the music of Ellington, and especially the Goodman Orchestra. He used to play for me many Goodman swing band songs; he never called it “jazz.” For some reason he didn’t like the word “jazz.” He preferred to call it “swing.” He’d play the Goodman Swing Orchestra back to back with Goodman’s wonderful rendition of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. So, I was like 8 or 9 years old and also I was pretty confused. But it was a very happy confusion, because he had the concept of that music. He was very Ellingtonian, not only because he loved the Ellington orchestra, but because he said there are only two kinds of music: good and the other is not. When you play or at least try to understand different sides of music, you become a better musician, like when you can speak different languages. You understand life better, you know? So I think it is a big mistake when people concentrate only on one. Many jazz people are too sectarian sometimes. They don’t want to hear nothing else but Bird, Dizzy, Ellington and so on. What about listening to other types of music that Bird, Dizzy, and Ellington tell you to listen to? I think those great jazz musicians are so great because they understand other cultures. Jazz is a music coming out of a multi-national and multi-ethnic society and country. Everybody here has put their own thing into this wonderful style called “jazz.” So, my father saw that from the beginning, and I was very fortunate to be his student.”
Would you put Bill Evans on your list of best jazz pianists? McCoy Tyler? Chick Corea?
In jazz, the horns – the saxophones and trumpets – have traditionally been the music’s glamour instruments and its main focus. But the piano has been a vital part of the jazz idiom since its inception, in both solo and ensemble settings. Its role is multifaceted due largely to the instrument’s combined melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic capabilities and is often the foundation of a great jazz ensemble. (Ask any horn player how they feel about a good jazz pianist.)
In anybody’s list there is always room for agreement and argument. Take a look at a great resource put together by Udiscovermusic.com. Check off your favorites and discover more about those who are new to you
Esperanza Spalding The 21st Century’s Jazz Genius?
In a well-written article for National Public Radio’s Lara Pellagrinelli makes the case for why Esperanza Spalding Is The 21st Century’s Jazz Genius.
“Spalding has undeniably made her mark within that male-dominated, musically conservative field. At the same time, she’s also shown her capacity to operate irrespective of its borders, an unusual achievement irrespective of her gender.
She didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. A native of Portland, Ore., Spalding played classical violin as a child and gigged in an indie band on bass as a teenager. She graduated from the Berklee College of Music in only three years, becoming,…”
Hazel Scott may be the best jazz musician you never heard of.
Born in Trinidad, Hazel was raised on music. Her whole family played and her mother, Alma, an aspiring concert pianist, taught music to help make ends meet. Unbeknownst to her family, Hazel Scott absorbed everything she heard until one day she woke her grandmother from a nap by playing a familiar hymn on the piano, two-handed and with perfect pitch. Her grandmother woke thinking, not wrongly, that she was witnessing a miracle. Her story is a fascinating bit of jazz history. Read her extraordinary story at Naritive.ly
Watch the video below to experience her ability and great style as a vocalist and pianist.
My journal just popped up a reminder that four years ago today I played a great gig with Marc Neihof, Alan Joseph, Dave Hanson and Stefan Flores at the Pueblo Zoo. How fortunate I have been to play with such master musicians. I remember Marc had been playing a lot of choros in his personal practice. When he played a stunning solo on this zoo gig, Alan and I looked at each other with wide eyes and Alan said “It must be the choros.”
Choro (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈʃoɾu], “cry” or “lament”), also popularly called chorinho (“little cry” or “little lament”), is an instrumental Brazilian popular music genre which originated in 19th century Rio de Janeiro. Despite its name, the music often has a fast and happy rhythm. Source: Wikipedia
Recently I listened to a modern choro composition by one of my new heroes, composer Vince Mendoza with the WDR big band on the album Homecoming. I did find a Vince Mendoza with the Metropole Orchestra video on youtube for you. Here it is:
Just You, Just Me was a a song from the 1929 musical film Marianne, composed by Jesse Greer with lyrics by Raymond Klages. Later a contrafact by Thelonius Monk.
Just You Just Me was adopted by musicians as a jazz standard and reinterpreted over the years. In the 1940s, pianist Thelonious Monk composed a song with harmonies adapted directly from “Just You, Just Me” but with a new melody, which he titled “Justice.” In Jazz this is called a contrafact – a musical composition consisting of a new melody overlaid on a familiar harmonic structure. Contrafact can also be explained as the use of borrowed chord progressions.This kind of oblique reference between “Just Me” and “Just Us” and “Justice” is commonplace, but Monk went a step further when he later renamed his composition “Evidence.”
Who are considered the 50 best jazz bassists of all time?
In jazz, as in most music, the bass is the bottom line. It’s both part of the rhythmic foundation of the music (along with the drums) and the sonic glue that binds everything together. In the New Orleans-style jazz ensembles of the early 20th Century, basslines were usually played by the tuba – reflecting jazz’s marching-band roots – but that instrument was eventually superseded by the upright, four-string double bass. As the jaunty 2/4 meter of 20s jazz evolved into the fluid 4/4 swing rhythms of the 30s that defined the big band era, the best jazz bassists played a crucial part in keeping the music flowing by playing…